CANMORE – Canmore’s Matthew Strum is Biathlon Canada’s man for the job.
The 23-year-old sharpshooter joins Canada’s four-man International Biathlon Union (IBU) squad for the remainder of the 2018-19 season after a spot opened up due to the retirement of a Canadian biathlete great.
Strum’s first taste of shooting and skiing is this week (Jan. 7-13) as the IBU lands in Poland.
It’s been three years since Strum last qualified to compete overseas, and the lack of professional success weighed on the Canmorite.
Then on Dec. 23, he sat playing Scrabble at his Canmore home when the call came to join the IBU team.
Like the board in front of him, Strum’s reaction was spelled out on his face.
“Yes, I did it. Finally, I did it,” he said.
Biathlon Canada officially announced the updated men’s and women’s world cup and IBU teams last month that would head into 2019.
IBU head coach Jeff Lodge was not available for comment.
Back in November, Strum contended to be on Canada’s IBU team at selection trials in Canmore, but was barely edged out of a spot by the original team of Aidan Millar, Carsen Campbell, Adam Runnalls and Jules Burnotte.
The announcement disappointed Strum, who regrouped with “Plan B” and made a statement with back-to-back victories at the NorAm Cup a few weeks after, which were his best results in three years.
After crossing the snowy finish line at the final NorAm race, Strum said he wanted to “prove a point” that he should be racing with the IBU team.
“I kept on the same path,” Strum said. “I wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t make it’ – I had a Plan B.”
Then news broke of Canadian biathlete great Nathan Smith unexpectedly retiring overseas last month, and the world cup team called up Quebec’s Burnotte, 23, to fill the void.
Smith, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympian retired following the BMW INU World Cup men’s relay in Hochfilzen, Austria. Smith said it was mainly due to an ongoing health issue – he was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus two years ago, which has low-energy, mono-like symptoms.
Burnotte was called up to join Brendan Green, Christian Gow and Scott Gow on the top circuit squad.
And as one door closed, another opens.
“The past couple years, I have had a whole lot of success with skiing, I wanted to try one more time to see how it goes,” said Strum. “Now I’ve gotten to the level where I want to be racing and where I want to be.”
The IBU team develops biathletes to take over spots on the top circuit world cup team.
Along with Strum on the IBU team are Millar and Campbell and second newcomer Trevor Kiers from Sprucedale, Ont.
Runnalls was selected to the team but was unable to accept.
“It’s a bunch of great guys on the team this year,” Strum said. “I’m happy to be hanging out with them and racing. My mindset is to have fun and have good races … I’m looking forward to it.”